100 Strangers Project - 48/100 / by Michael Pung

I met Gezahgn while I was out meeting a friend at a business park in Chiswick. He was sitting enjoying his break from work. Often I feel a little shy about approaching so my friend encouraged me to do so:

"I'm a slightly shy person, it's not my personality it's the way I've been brought. Being slightly shy is polite. It's tough for us to adapt ourselves here in this society being shy, there's no place for being shy. You have to come out to stand up for yourself in everything. I'm like you.

Even if you know, for instance you are supposed to look someone into the eye. If you are genuinely honest then what you're saying is true. I don't think it's the same in my culture you don't need to see people like that. We are challenged but I like it, that's my value."

Gezahgn is an accountant and has been living in London for 12 years after moving from Ethiopia. I asked him why he moved to the UK:

"I met someone who lived in this country and got married and ended up living here. I was actually here for study and met her while I was studying. And I went back home, the introduction continued. We started communicating when I was in Ethiopia."

How did you keep in touch?

"Email was the main, telephone was the most expensive mode of communication by that time. We usually communicating by phone and that's how we kept in touch. It is amazing how time has changed. I remember my younger sister went to America. This was 25 years ago now. I remember when she was calling us in Ethiopia, we all: my mum, my dad, myself and my little sister waiting for our turn to talk to her."

We then chatted about his previous work, his time in Cambodia and the abundance of water compared to where he came from in Ethiopia:

"I went to Phnom Penh for a work purpose, I'm a water engineer from my previous profession before I became an accountant. I went there for two weeks to see this project. This is a water project called BioSand filter and it is a household water purifying device. People get water from water sources like from streams and rivers. They put the water through a device with a sand layer that filters the water.

Countries like Cambodia don't have clean water as such and Cambodia is very ideal for this project. Water is accessible but not clean. People can get water from reasonable distances but the water is not clean. If you see in Ethiopia we may need to walk long distances to have water."

Thanks for taking part in the project Gezaghn!